Founding director of Wick Poetry Center returns to Kent State

Cameron Gorman

Maggie Anderson, the founding director of the Wick Poetry Center gave a reading of her poetry, on topics from biographical elements of her own life to drone warfare, Wednesday night.

“I think there’s a sweetness to bringing Maggie back to Kent, and officially as part of our Wick reading series, which is a reading series that she founded and started by bringing wonderful poets to Kent,” said David Hassler, the director of the Wick Poetry Center. “Now, since she has retired, she has a very unbroken focus on her own writing, and a kind of new life as just an author.” 

Anderson, a professor emerita of English at Kent State, was greeted by enthusiastic applause from the audience as she stepped onstage in the KIVA following her introduction. She began the reading with her poem, “How the Brain Works.”

“How the brain works … like a peony,” Anderson read. “Full white blossoms, heavy and damp with the scurrying of insects. From this comes langauge: Morning sun. Afternoon shower. This, that.

Anderson is the author of five books of poems and is the recipient of several awards, including two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her most recent work, “Dear All,” was published in 2017.

“We’re all so confused now about what’s a fact and what’s an alternate fact, and what’s a medium sized fact, and poetry tells the truth of the heart,” Anderson said. “And my own little plan is that in these times, we need to be kind. And we need to slow down. And we need to think. Use our brains and our hearts.”

Besides giving a reading of her work for the Kent State community, Anderson also used her time on campus to work with students.

“We had a Q and A with her that was just sort of Wick students and her Tuesday morning, because obviously she was the first director, so it was a really big deal for us to connect with her,” said Regis Coustillac, a senior English major. “… There’s a definite place to her poetry, and there’s a spirit that moves within it that’s sort of — it’s not tied down by any expectations, that takes turns and surprises.”

For Anderson, returning to Kent seems to have been both familiar and uncanny.

“I mean, having started from such modest beginnings, to know that there’s a house here, and students are using it, and there’s classrooms, it’s like a place for poetry,”  Anderson said of the May Prentice House. “There’s not too many places in the world for poetry, but this is one, so that feels really good. The other thing is it feels really strange, because all these new stores are here.”

Anderson closed the reading with her poem “And then I arrive at the powerful green hill.” 

“I have brought everything I’ve left undone — letters and resolutions, almost loves, hard grudges — to give to the wind,” Anderson read, “that takes them up, tosses them down, down until my hands are empty and I am as thin and light as a girl.”

She also took the time to reflect on her origins. 

“I just want to thank you for being such a wonderful group of people to read to … many of you are my dear friends of 20, 30, however many years,” Anderson said. “And it’s a real thrill for me to be back in Kent, to see your faces and to be with you.”

Cameron Gorman is the humanities reporter. Contact her at [email protected].